A Coaching Power Tool created by Ingrid Remmery
(Executive Coaching, CHINA)
Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a hammer, pliers, a screwdriver, a rule, a glue-pot, glue, nails and screws. The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects.
I guess we spend at least 5-6 hours a day on spoken communication. During this period a person, the sender, sends words combined in sentences to another person(s), the receiver.
The role of the sender is of great value. Just as music varies with its performer, the efficacy of the communication will depend in part of the communicator. As a sender we are not only the musicians; we are also the musical instruments. The quality and tone of our instrument, in fact the tone and words we use, will impact the music, our conversation.
This Power Tool is focused on the use of the words BUT and AND. These conjunction-words bridges two clauses of a single sentence together. Depending of the use of those words, our music, our performance will vary.
The ’Yes, BUT’ gavel tends to sour the air
The word BUT is used very, very often. To understand the tone, the meaning of this word, let’s look at some examples.
Your colleague enters your office and asks for your support. Bad timing … you have to leave … meeting with the Board … You answer: “I really understand you want my help on this but my schedule is packed full.“
In this example we send a message of rejecting. Multiple realities are competing. “I have to choose one or the other. Sorry you loose.”
Generally spoken, by using the word BUT we send a message of exclusions, denying, discounting, limitations, … or even rejecting the previous the part of the sentence. The use of BUT can make the two parts of the sentence very unequal. The BUT tends to convey a negation of the first clause of the sentence in favor of the second clause of the sentence.
A colleague is suggesting a new approach during a staff meeting. Your supervisor answers: “ Thank you for your input BUT there is no money for that.” Often nothing productive will happen after that. Big change your colleague will turn the other deck or he/she will dispute his/her position and fight back. From there, the conversation can dissolve into a pointless ‘war’. Maybe they’re no longer communicating. Maybe they’re both trying to win.
The word BUT stifles rather than opens up discussion. No matter how friendly our tone or how many cute mollifying phrases we throw in to acknowledge the other person, the message to the person is “This is true BUT this is true too”. “You are wrong”. “Sorry you loose”.
Any idea how many times we use it? How many times we hear it?
Here’s a simple way to find out: COUNT IT! You will be surprised.
I found a nice story about the use of BUT in Marshall Goldsmith’s book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’. For every time a COO was using the words no, BUT and however during their session, it was going to cost him $20. The first BUT was for free. Within an hour, the COO was down $420.